Are the $200 tickets and empty seats for the Copa America a missed opportunity in the run-up to the World Cup?

When Argentina return to MetLife Stadium on Tuesday to face Canada, they will likely do so in front of a sold-out crowd. When they took on Chile in East Rutherford, it was the biggest-attended game so far in this Copa America.

At major tournaments it is the norm: wherever the Argentina national team goes, the fans follow.

This summer, they’ve gone from Atlanta to New Jersey to Miami to Houston and now back to New Jersey. Demand to see Argentina and captain Lionel Messi has made tickets to see the world champions the most expensive. Still, fans have shown they’re willing to pay hundreds of dollars, if not more, for a single match ticket.

The average cost per ticket for Copa America is high anyway, estimated at over $200 (£160), according to multiple accounts. As we enter the final stages of the tournament, ticket prices are only going to get higher.


Argentine fans at the Hard Rock Stadium (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

For organizers CONMEBOL, the turnout for this year's Copa America can be considered a resounding success. Eight days before the tournament, officials boasted that more than a million tickets had been sold for the first 32 matches. Alejandro Domínguez, president of the South American Football Confederation, said officials were “full of excitement and enthusiasm.”

Yet there were also less spectacular crowds at several group stage games, with every empty seat in vast NFL stadiums representing a missed opportunity to attract a fan base that might have been enthralled by the growth of soccer in the United States. Let alone the impact on players or how poor those empty seats look to those watching on TV at home.

While the Copa America started with a reported sellout of just over 70,000 fans at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium when Argentina was in town, the subsequent five matches drew tens of thousands of fans less than each stadium's capacity.

It wasn't until the fifth day of competition, Colombia-Paraguay at NRG Stadium in Houston on June 24, that we saw a full stadium again, as the table below shows. (Green indicates games that were considered sold out, while red is below 66 percent of capacity — and note that Levi's Stadium has expandable capacity.)

05ada852 e38e 423a 9e7c 5757941f71a3

CONMEBOL said it considered nine of the 24 group stage matches sold out. The 2016 Copa America Centenario — also held in the United States — sold more than 1.5 million tickets and served as a benchmark for organizers this summer. By the end of the group stage, sales were on track to reach similar figures to 2016, according to Ruben Olavarrieta, CONMEBOL's commercial manager in charge of ticket sales.

Before the tournament, Nery Pumpido, Deputy Secretary General of Football at CONMEBOL, said The Athletics that the tickets “have a price that I think is important, because people want to buy a lot”.

He continued that the confederation had no influence on overpriced tickets, because the dynamic ticket prices that determine these amounts are managed by the ticketing partners in each stadium.

“Based on what has been demonstrated so far,” Pompido said last month, “the price is right.”

Dynamic pricing could price fans from some countries participating in the tournament out of the market. Not only are tickets expensive, but any tourist attending games must also factor in hotels and flights in the United States — as well as travel between stadiums if they want to see multiple games.

Average take-home pay in many of Latin America’s competitive nations falls below $900 (£700) a month. In Argentina, where inflation is among the highest in the world, the average monthly take-home pay was estimated at $423.32 last year, according to Statista.

Dynamic ticketing has in many ways benefited American buyers with higher incomes and lower travel costs. The large Latino diasporas in the U.S., combined with the popularity of some tournament favorites, has meant that Argentina, Brazil and Colombia have drawn the biggest crowds, but not in every market. When Colombia and Costa Rica faced off in Glendale, Arizona, just 27,386 filled the 63,400-capacity State Farm Stadium.

For the quarterfinals on July 4 at NRG Stadium, where Argentina eliminated Ecuador after a grueling penalty shootout, the price for a single resale ticket on Ticketmaster on match day started at $176. Even eight minutes into the match, tickets on StubHub were still going for $120.

Copa America crowds scaled


Panama vs Bolivia in Orlando attracted 12,933 spectators, while the stadium has a capacity of 25,500 (Leonardo Fernandez/Getty Images)

Tickets for the remaining quarterfinals were still expensive, by soccer standards, but lower than Argentina-Ecuador. On Thursday, a one-way ticket for Venezuela-Canada at AT&T Stadium cost $107, $132 for Brazil-Uruguay at Allegiant Stadium and $70 for Colombia-Panama at Arizona’s State Farm Stadium. That’s likely due to Colombia’s low turnout in that market during the group stage.

All of these prices exclude service and handling fees, taxes, and any public transportation or parking that may be required to get to a match. Parking costs up to $132 for the Argentina quarterfinal in Houston.

But prices alone aren’t the only reason for the lackluster turnout at some of the tournament’s group-stage matches. Better marketing around matches could have raised the profile of some games, particularly those involving the United States. The team’s tournament opener against Bolivia at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, drew just 47,873 fans to the 80,000-capacity stadium.

go deeper

GO DEEPER

How Uruguay v Brazil became the dirtiest match of the Copa America

The UMSNT’s second match against Panama in Atlanta drew just 59,145 fans in a 71,000-capacity stadium. And when the U.S. lost 1-0 to Uruguay at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium to exit the competition, just 55,460 fans filled the 76,400-capacity stadium, while half the upper bowl looked empty on television. The scorching temperatures and the team’s shock defeat to Panama the previous game could also have been a deterrent.

The tournament was originally scheduled to be played in Ecuador, but almost everyone involved considered moving it to the United States last year a victory — except for those in Latin America who found it an unpopular decision. For CONCACAF (the confederation for North and Central America and the Caribbean), it gave its member countries a chance to shine on South America’s biggest stage.

It also gave the United States, Mexico and Canada, co-hosts of the 2026 World Cup, a chance to drum up fan interest ahead of the main event. Few South American countries have venues as large as the US, which is packed with huge NFL stadiums ready to go (even if that came with its own issues with some pitches), which was a potential win for CONMEBOL. But would it have been wise to stage matches at smaller Major League Soccer stadiums with larger pitches in more established markets for soccer fans?

Copa Stadia attendances knockout stage 1

While unsold tickets mean lost revenue for the South American federation and other stakeholders, the missed opportunity is more of a problem for those who want to grow the sport in North America. Mexico and the United States failing to advance beyond the group stage is seen as an abject failure for both countries. Instead of captivating audiences with deep runs in the tournament and preparing markets for 2026, the conversation has been focused squarely on the crisis that each country’s men’s soccer team now finds itself in.

go deeper

While Canada's run to the semifinals undoubtedly helps, the CONCACAF nation has played in front of some of the tournament's smallest crowds, including the 11,622 fans who braved the heat to watch their 1-0 win over Peru at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City. That game, in which an assistant referee collapsed from heat exhaustion due to the soaring temperatures, was the game with the smallest attendance this summer.

Canada has also had the misfortune of playing teams with a clear home-field advantage in every game.

“Given the way our fan base works and how diverse Canada is, even our home games (in Canada) have been very difficult,” said defenceman Alistair Johnston.

“And so I think most of our games with the national team have always been in these kinds of environments, and I think that's helped us in the long run, so that when you come and play against Argentina, Peru, Chile, whoever it is, and probably here against Venezuela as well, we're ready for that because it's almost become the norm for us.”

GettyImages 2160934971 scaled e1720376991861


Empty seats at the quarterfinal between Colombia and Panama at State Farm Stadium, Arizona (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The real jewel in the crown of the competition remains the final at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The reduced capacity of 65,300 only serves to increase demand. However, tickets for sporting events and other entertainment in Florida are exempt from tax starting July 1 through the end of the month thanks to local law.

On Friday morning, a single resale ticket in the upper bowl at Hard Rock started at $1,369. That drops to $1,292 each if you buy two tickets at once. That number will continue to rise and fall, with the same tickets going for $1,350 each an hour earlier. The service fee for those tickets (an additional cost) was an estimated $271 each.

As such, there will likely be several fans scattered around the perimeter of the stadiums hosting these final rounds of the Copa America, hoping to catch a glimpse of the madness while watching the match from their phones or tablets. Of course, ticket prices for the remaining matches will continue to fluctuate based on demand, so a fan sitting in the same section who bought tickets weeks in advance could be paying hundreds of euros more than a fan who bought a ticket a few hours before kick-off.

While forensic controls on attendance and ticket sales will continue after the tournament's final whistle, CONMEBOL has made one thing clear: it wants to continue exploring the American market.

“It's a place to watch, especially as a host of the 2026 World Cup. That's important to take into account,” Pumpido said.

“We believe that the United States has also made great progress at the football level… (and) they have improved enormously with the arrival of Messi. Of course, CONMEBOL will always keep the United States in mind for tournaments in the future.”

go deeper

GO DEEPER

USMNT had questions ahead of their Copa America exit. Now they're getting louder

(Top photo: Empty seats for Costa Rica v Paraguay in Texas; by Buda Mendes via Getty Images)

Related Posts

  • Sports
  • July 19, 2024
  • 3 views
  • 7 minutes Read
Canadian Jacob Shaffleburg, Colombian Richard Rios and Copa America stars set for transfers

Getty Images With the major international tournaments of the summer behind us, barring the Olympics, the transfer window is starting to heat up. A byproduct of tournaments like Copa America…

  • Sports
  • July 18, 2024
  • 2 views
  • 9 minutes Read
What to watch for USWNT at the Paris Olympics: schedule, live stream, start time, what you need to know

The U.S. women’s national team returns to the Olympics with a point to prove, even if they may not be the favorites to win the gold medal in Paris. The…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You Missed

Pelosi has told House Democrats that Biden may soon be convinced to withdraw from the race

  • July 19, 2024
Pelosi has told House Democrats that Biden may soon be convinced to withdraw from the race

18 Silk and Great Value plant-based milk alternatives recalled in Canada due to listeria deaths and illnesses

  • July 19, 2024
18 Silk and Great Value plant-based milk alternatives recalled in Canada due to listeria deaths and illnesses

Trump Bitcoin Conference Fundraising Tickets for Nashville Soiree Hit $844,600 Max

  • July 19, 2024
Trump Bitcoin Conference Fundraising Tickets for Nashville Soiree Hit $844,600 Max

Solar parks with rainwater management reduce runoff and erosion, research shows

  • July 19, 2024
Solar parks with rainwater management reduce runoff and erosion, research shows

Food aroma research could help explain why meals in space taste bad

  • July 19, 2024
Food aroma research could help explain why meals in space taste bad

The mindset, technology and tools holding back e-commerce

  • July 19, 2024
The mindset, technology and tools holding back e-commerce

Writer Shalom Auslander catalogs his lifelong battle with self-contempt in ‘Feh’ : NPR

  • July 19, 2024
Writer Shalom Auslander catalogs his lifelong battle with self-contempt in ‘Feh’ : NPR

Canadian Jacob Shaffleburg, Colombian Richard Rios and Copa America stars set for transfers

  • July 19, 2024

Trump speaks at RNC amid Biden election questions

  • July 19, 2024
Trump speaks at RNC amid Biden election questions

Stocks Making the Biggest After-hours Moves: ISRG, NFLX, PLUG

  • July 19, 2024
Stocks Making the Biggest After-hours Moves: ISRG, NFLX, PLUG

The Key to a Purposeful Life in a Distracted World

  • July 19, 2024
The Key to a Purposeful Life in a Distracted World